Corvallis School District requests funding to renovate schools

Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, Corvallis School Board vice chair, holds up promotional material for Measure 2-113. The measure is part of the May 15 election for residents in Linn and Benton Counties.

Stefanie Gamboa, Practicum Contributor

Measure 2-113 allocates funds for modernizing, expanding public schools.

Over $199 million has the potential to fund the Corvallis School District if the proposed ballot Measure 2-113 is passed this upcoming primary election, held on May 15.

If passed, Measure 2-113 will put almost $200 million into the modernization and restoration of all 13 public schools in Corvallis, Ore. The suggested bond specifically identifies safety, overcrowding, aging and additional educational spaces as the main concerns for renovation. 

Vincent Adams, chair of Corvallis School Board, said the bond is immensely important and “pivotal” to the future of Corvallis schools. The passage of the bond is similar to purchasing a home, Adams said. 

“Just like you will buy a house someday, it’s an investment in your future and that’s what we are asking,” Adams said. “A school bond is an investment in education in the future.” 

The age of Corvallis public school buildings is one factor that will be addressed with the funding from this bond, said Sami Al-Abdrabbuh, Corvallis School Board vice chair.

Harding Center, the oldest school in Corvallis, was built in 1923. Close behind is Lincoln Elementary, built in 1949, and Franklin K-8, built in 1947. 

The cost of repairs for Lincoln Elementary are so great that it is more cost-efficient to rebuild the whole school rather than to repair existing problems, said Shahnaz Sahnow, who has been employed by Lincoln Elementary as a literacy coach and reading specialist for 16 years.

For Sahnow, the bond is critical for not only Lincoln Elementary, but for the future of all Corvallis schools. 

“The bond addresses many issues, but the most important, first and foremost, to me is addressing safety,” Sahnow said. “The science is pretty clear that we are overdue for a major earthquake in this region and our buildings are not seismically adequate.”

Making these seismic upgrades to vulnerable schools will reassure student and staff safety during an earthquake, Al-Abdrabbuh said. 

“We live in a region where there is a risk of earthquakes. Seismic retrofitting is an important upgrade to ensure children and school staff are safe,” Al-Abdrabbuh said.  

Security upgrades are also included in the category of safety renovations. 

“The reality is thinking about a possible school shooting, or a violent attack on a school,” Sahnow said. “We don’t have secure entrances at most of our schools, most front offices don’t even have a direct line of sight to outside.” 

Measure 2-113 will be able to secure all main entrances, get controlled access locks and get lighting and video surveillance for all schools, Sahnow said. 

Portable classrooms that were built in the 1990s, which were said to be temporary, still exist today, Sahnow said. 

Currently, 21 portable classrooms are used at all seven Corvallis elementary schools. Without the use of these modulars, student capacity would be at 106 percent for the K-5 schools, according to Sahnow. 

“Our spaces are just really crowded, and modular classrooms are not ideal for so many reasons,” Sahnow said. “It’s isolating, kids do not have access to bathrooms and water and you can’t hear in a lot of cases what’s going on in the main building.”

This bond intends to eliminate all modulars across the school district and add classrooms to the main buildings. If the measure passes, Lincoln Elementary and Hoover Elementary will both be demolished and rebuilt at their current locations to better accommodate students and provide modern learning locations spaces in a fiscally responsible way, Al-Abdrabbuh said. 

“You can judge a nation and a community by how they treat their public schools. We are walking the talk here by investing in the safety and wellbeing of our children,” Al-Abdrabbuh said. “You are not only a student in Corvallis, you are a community member and your vote will really matter on this Measure.”

The potential passage of this bond reflects the growing influences of education throughout Corvallis, Adams said. 

“We are sending a message that our community cares about our kids and their future,” Adams said. “As students here at OSU are launching their lives, it is setting an example of what education should look like so when they move on to other communities they have a vision of what good education is.”

Sahnow said OSU students have an opportunity to get involved in the community by supporting Measure 2-113. 

“Whether they grew up in Corvallis or didn’t grow up in Corvallis, with the political climate in the country being tense, the youth are the hope and this is prime time for youth to be getting involved in politics, and something like a local school measure is a great place to start,” Sahnow said.